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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

Noah Syndergaard-Alcides Escobar knockdown pitch didn't win the game for Mets

Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar (2) is

Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar (2) is brushed back on a pitch by New York Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard (34) in the first inning during Game 3 of the World Series against the New York Mets at Citi Field on Friday, Oct. 30, 2015. Credit: Jim McIsaac

A runaway train started its journey on Friday night at Citi Field. There's probably nothing we can do to stop it, especially if the Mets rally and win this World Series.

But here goes . . .

The runaway train is the narrative that the Mets beat the Royals in Game 3 on Friday night because Noah Syndergaard threw the first pitch of the game high and tight to Kansas City leadoff man Alcides Escobar.

Syndergaard "set a tone." He "delivered a message." He showed the bullies from Kansas City that the Mets won't be pushed around in their own house.

The only problem with the narrative? It's not remotely true.

The Mets beat the Royals on Friday night because Syndergaard pitched better than Kansas City starter Yordano Ventura, who allowed five runs in 31/3 innings. But he didn't pitch all that great.

Syndergaard gave up three runs in six innings -- the exact same line Matt Harvey had in a no-decision in the Mets' extra-inning loss in Game 1. But while Harvey was nearly apologetic about not pitching better, Syndergaard accepted accolades for his effort.

Syndergaard was good enough to win because the Mets' offense woke up, not because he put Escobar on his seat.

The true story is that Syndergaard's last pitch was much more important to the outcome than his first. His last pitch got Alex Rios to ground out to short with the bases loaded and the Mets holding a 5-3 lead in the sixth. A few inches more up the middle and that grounder would have been a tying two-run single.

The Mets then scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth to turn a nail-biter into an apparent rout.

All that was left at that point was to hear what Syndergaard and the Royals had to say about the pitch to Escobar, which Syndergaard had pretty much telegraphed a day earlier when he said he had "a few tricks up my sleeve" when it came to dealing with Escobar, the ALCS MVP.

Neither side disappointed.

"I think every postseason game that Escobar's played in, he's swung at the first-pitch fastball," Syndergaard said. "And I didn't think he would want to swing at that one."

The Royals were incensed.

"The whole team was pretty upset," said Mike Moustakas, who screamed at Syndergaard from the dugout but was oddly silent when the two were a lot closer after Moustakas hit a comebacker to end the first.

"I thought it was weak -- very weak," Rios said. "I thought it was unprofessional."

Syndergaard had the undisputed line of the night, though, when the Royals' opinions were relayed to him. "If they have a problem with me throwing inside, then they can meet me 60 feet, 6 inches away," he said. "I've got no problem with that."

It was a great point by the rookie, who batted twice after the brushback. The Royals didn't go after him either time, and Syndergaard lined a single on an 0-and-2 pitch and scored on Curtis Granderson's homer. So what was all the shouting about?

Syndergaard said he threw inside to Escobar to keep him from getting "too comfortable." Perhaps it worked in that at-bat as Escobar struck out on the next three pitches.

But as an overall tactic, it failed. Escobar lined a single to center in his next at-bat, one of six hits by the Royals in the first two innings as they took a 3-2 lead. They couldn't have been too uncomfortable.

No, in this case, the best defense for the Mets was their offense. David Wright and Granderson each hit a two-run homer and Syndergaard found his rhythm after the second inning -- not by pitching inside, but by making better pitches.

As we said earlier, this runaway train probably already has left the station. If the Mets win the World Series, Syndergaard's pitch will go down in team history with the black cat and the Buckner play, and there's not a thing anyone can do about it.

Sometimes the myths are stronger than the reality, as Mets fans should have learned from a World Series myth from their past.

The story goes like this: In the 2000 Subway Series, the Mets lost the first two games but took Game 3. Then Derek Jeter came down from the heavens and hit the first pitch of Game 4 for a home run and the Yankees went on to win the series in five and Jeter was named MVP.

As a Mets fan, how many times have you heard or read about that home run? Do any of the accounts point out that the Yankees scored a run in each of the first three innings, not just the one in the first, and that the Mets lost the series not because Jeter "set the tone" in Game 4 but because the Yankees had the far superior team and played better?

The Mets will win this series if they play better than the Royals. Simple as that. No myths needed.


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